Bewak makes most of college adjustment
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Immersed in a world of academia, Paul Bewak sees wrestling as the one familiar constant.
The 2011 Hempfield graduate just finished his freshman season for the Johns Hopkins University wrestling team, where Bewak is on scholarship for physics and math.
"Any college is a hard adjustment, but being here, there's a lot of work involved because you have to go home after class and literally figure everything out," Bewak said. "The biggest difference is all the free time. There's three hours of class, then you can do whatever you feel like doing. Wrestling disciplines you. You're used to dieting and going to practice, doing things you don't necessarily want to do."
Competing in the 125-pound weight class, Bewak capped a 30-9 season with a seventh-place showing at the NCAA Division III tournament on March 10 in La Crosse, Wisc. He not only earned All-American honors, but his tournament finish was the highest ever for a Blue Jays wrestler.
Bewak won his first-round match before getting pinned by eventual champion Ken Anderson of Division III team champion Wartburg. Bewak then went 2-1 in the loser's bracket before defeating Charlie Frankel of Delaware Valley for seventh place.
"Being the first (wrestler) from Hopkins to make it that far was awesome," said Bewak, who usually weighed in no higher than 120 pounds this year. "The biggest thing I learned here is every single kid is going to fight for seven minutes for every single point. In high school, there were kids who would belly-out and give up a takedown. In college, you have to follow through constantly because they won't give it up. You can't stop trying until the ref says, 'Two!'"
Bewak credits his high school competition for helping him jump right in to the collegiate level. Hempfield's star lightweight always seemed to be blocked by elite wrestlers in the postseason.
In 2010, Bewak lost in the WPIAL Class AAA 112-pound finals to Jimmy Gulibon of Derry. Gulibon, of course, captured his fourth PIAA title this month. Bewak ended up with a sixth-place medal at the PIAA tournament.
In his senior year, Bewak placed third in the WPIAL at 112 after losing his semifinal bout in overtime to Franklin Regional's Tyler Smith. Bewak went 2-2 at the state tournament and didn't place.
"Being from the toughest state is what got me used to what I was going to see here," Bewak said. "It was a little more intense (in Wisconsin), but wrestling Jimmy and some of the other top-notch kids, they're still at a little bit higher level.
"Everybody wants to win, but in the end, I'd rather lose to the best than beat kids I could roll over."
Bewak said he can't wait until wrestling practice begins again next fall.
He'll return home for the summer and is planning to work with Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine. In the meantime, Bewak will double down on his studies and use his wrestling mentality to tackle finals.
"Any wrestler is going to miss out on some stuff," he said, "like saying no to hanging out with friends to work out or stay home and study, and that's really helped me here. Some majors are harder than others, but everyone has to sit down and study. It's nerve-wracking, but I'm glad I'm here. Being from Pennsylvania and loving wrestling like I do, I'll never stop unless I have to."
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